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Close's Slam Propels Liberty to Doubleheader Sweep
First baseman Alex Close had three hits, including a grand slam, powering the Liberty Flames to an 8-0 game two victory over the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs and a sweep of their Big South doubleheader, Friday evening at Worthington Stadium.
Close, a freshman, hit his first collegiate grand slam during a five-run third inning for the Flames. The blast, his third of the year, gave Liberty a 5-0 advantage. The first baseman was a triple shy of a cycle, as he also collected a double and single in the contest, scoring twice.
Liberty moves to 5-0 in the Big South standings and 23-5 overall. The Flames have won seven consecutive contests. Gardner-Webb drops to 0-2 in conference play and 14-10 overall.
Just like in the first game of the twinbill, Liberty jumped out to a 1-0 edge in the second inning. Close began the frame by splitting the right-center field gap with a line drive for a double and later scored on a two-out double by third baseman Dalton Sype.
The Flames extended their advantage with five runs in the next at bat. Center fielder Andy Smith opened the uprising by ripping a triple into the right field corner. Second baseman Bryan Aanderud and designated hitter Tyler Cox were both hit by a pitch, loading the bases. Close followed with a blast over the left field wall to give Liberty a 5-0 lead. The next batter, right fielder Ryan Cordell, singled and scored on a single by left fielder Ian Parmley, upping the home team's advantage to 6-0.
Liberty plated two additional runs in the fourth. Aanderud began the Flames' half of the inning with a double and came around to score on a single by Cox. Later in the inning, Cordell reached on an infield single and scored on a double by catcher Trey Wimmer for what proved to be the final run of the 8-0 Liberty shutout victory.
Liberty starter Patrick Eckelbarger runs his record to 5-0 on the year. The right-hander pitched seven scoreless innings, scattering three hits. He struck out six batters and walked three. The senior combined with Daniel Brown and Brooks Roy to record a program-record eighth shutout for the Flames this season.
Gardner-Webb starter Conner Scarborough drops to 1-3. Scarborough was roughed up for six runs on eight hits over three innings. He struck out one batter and walked two.
Liberty collected 13 hits in the contest. Smith and Wimmer had two hits apiece for the Flames.
Gardner-Webb managed five hits in the contest, with first baseman Dusty Quattlebaum having two.
Gardner-Webb and Liberty will meet in the final game of their series tomorrow afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.